Our first blog in the series “starting your smart city journey” looked at the meaning of a smart city for councils and authorities. Once the council has identified its priorities and strategy for the smart city, the process of turning strategy into actual activities starts. This blog will focus on the challenges of procuring the wireless infrastructure, including:
- Quality and requirements
- Most suitable technology and commercial model
- Identifying the right supplier/partner
Once a council has decided on their approach and objectives of the smart city, it’s time to structure the technical and commercial requirement to ensure the most cost-effective solution is selected and implemented by the right supplier/partner. It is at this stage of the process a council usually drafts a tender document to confirm quality and requirements of the solutions and technology, to enable suppliers to provide comprehensive proposals that meet the brief. Often, council procurement leads will engage in consultations, in the form of an Open Market Engagement, also referred to as Prior Information Notice. This usually is used as a market sounding day, designed to capture information around the elements of the tender project (e.g. Smart City, assets, infrastructure, IOT, etc.). It is often recommended to get technical experts to assist in writing the tender requirements (technical brief and evaluation criteria) to help drafting and evaluation of such complex proposals/solutions since the more specific the requirement is, the better and more concrete proposals the council will receive during the procurement process.
Quality and requirements
The first stage in this process is to understand the stakeholder needs and objectives and SMART goals. This will form the foundation of the scope of the project, such as agreeing coverage areas, success criteria, performance parameters and the benefits you want to achieve, including the social value. Another requirement is around SHEQ, such as ISO standards, NRSWA and G39 certification. ISO standards such as 9001, 18001 and 14001 ensure the supplier delivers a quality service and a high health, safety and environmental performance while working on behalf of the Council. NRSWA (New Roads and Streetworks Act) training and G39 training ensure that the supplier has the knowledge to plan and undertake the physical works of installation within the city limits allowing for appropriate traffic ad pedestrian management to keep the supplier and the city public safe. Lastly, there is the consideration around timescales – for the tender as well as the project itself.
Once SMART goals are defined, the next step is to assure that either the solution to procure and the procurement process per se is fully aligned with those objectives. Hence, it is recommended to stablish a clear assessment criterion per section, namely, SHEQ, timelines, performance parameters, relevant experience, technologies, capacity, quality, social value, OpEx, CaPex, added value and risks.
Most suitable technology and commercial model
Once the foundations have been established, the suitable technology to achieve the objectives must be selected. There are many aspects that need to be considered which will help identify the most suitable technology to deploy. Firstly, it needs to be understood how the network will be used, who the potential users are, what the required throughput is, what type of traffic will be transported by the network, where the high-density areas are the located, and how the system can meet future requirements in terms of capacity and interoperability with new technologies. From there, it is easier to establish whether this is an upgrade of the legacy infrastructure, or a new system altogether, and what technology is most relevant, whether that be Wi-Fi, cellular and/or small cells.
Commercial considerations will centre around infrastructure ownership, revenue share vs. guaranteed income, data ownership, OpEx and CaPex.
Identifying the right supplier/partner
Right from the outset of the tender process, the council will have to agree evaluation criteria, as well as how these are measured. This provides clarity and transparency throughout the process for all stakeholders involved. This can be a daunting task and sometimes requires technical expertise (e.g. what is a technically sound response) as well as involvement from other council stakeholders.
The traditional approach to procure technology involves the selection of only one main contractor dealing with multiple subcontractors to deliver the project. It’s important that the tender document captures the information needed to assess and rank potential subcontractors by setting clear selection criteria. Depending on the various stages of tender that each council wishes to put in place, the pre-qualification criteria (PQQ) often centre around financial viability of the company, track record, delivery assurance, quality certifications, insurance levels, health and safety compliance, and other qualifying elements that are in line with government guidelines.
Other more modern approaches involve the split of the project by Lots, aiming to select the best partner per technology or stage of the project. This new approach also includes a presentation after the submission of the tender which have proven to be useful to find out how much of an understanding a possible supplier has of the project and to allow the local authority to have a better understanding of the proposal. We believe that supplier meetings at any stage throughout the RFP/tender process are an efficient way to get a feel for a company’s capability, responsiveness, openness and understanding of the project and council. This could take place in the early stages of the tender – as part of a site visit/walk around the council – or a presentation of the solution in the final stages of the tender.
Innovation is often a good way to find out whether a supplier has a different approach or can add value to the council’s overall efforts on Smart City. Demonstrating depth of experience and aims at potential for long term partnership.
These basic criteria for procuring a wireless solution for Smart Cities provides a starting point for councils to approach the selection process confidently. It is not unusual for councils to solicit outside help from wireless/technical experts, in order to ensure the right requirements and criteria are in place to ensure best possible outcome – in terms of quality, timing, commercials as well as technical capabilities. iWireless Solutions has extensive experience of working with local councils to help make their city smarter by deploying a wireless infrastructure that connects and enables communication between assets and users. You can find out more about how we can help and discuss any questions raised in this article by speaking to one of our technical specialists by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 01342 305038. To make sure you don’t miss the next step “Chapter 3: Network Densification – the process” keep an eye on our News page or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.